The work of the devil

It’s a strange, weird world out there. I get hate mail all the time, but you know me — I’m mean and cruel and I don’t hesitate to pull out the sharp, sharp knives of unkind rhetoric. Other people get hate mail, too, and here’s one that made me laugh and laugh (which is also really mean, since I’m not the recipient.)

You people are going to ruin your little daughter and make her burn in hell like the two of you. You think you are clever and so does the devil. Only God has the answer for you. God or G. Bush.

That last line is a real laugh-getter — some people have problems distinguishing god from Bush, and I’m not talking about Moses — but there’s more. What did this horrible person and his child do to deserve such damnation? Is he a militant atheist? A commie pinko Kucinich supporter? I don’t know; maybe, but it’s not apparent from the blog. The blog has a theme.

It’s about vegan parenting.

Oh, man, when George W. Bush discovers that people actually post vegetarian recipes on a blog, he is probably going to send Chuck Norris over to kick their asses and slap ’em around with a side of beef. I’m just relieved that I’ve never posted my old recipe for miso soup here, or I’d really be in trouble — I’d be posting from Gitmo in between waterboarding sessions, or dodging lightning bolts from heaven.

“This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Discovery Institute”

We have another point of correspondence. Remember how Kent Hovind’s organization was bellowing and bucking about to block criticism on youtube? Now the Discovery Institute is up to the same shenanigans, trying to silence criticism by shutting down their youtube critics.

It’s a good video that also nicely explains Dembski’s Harvard/XVIVO fiasco as an ironic counterpoint.

The Discovery Institute’s attempts to launder their internet presence have reached ridiculous levels — they’ve even asked Les Lane to remove a photo of Casey Luskin — “copyright infringement,” don’t you know — which is simply bizarre, unless you figure that they’re smarter than we think, and eradicating embarrassments like Luskin is one of their new tactics.

We are ruled by monsters

This is an unbelievable statement from one of our top medical advisors. Heroin overdoses kill many people; there is a cheap rescue option, though, kits called Narcan that cost a mere $9.50 and allow people to save lives. The Bush administration opposes their distribution.

Dr. Bertha Madras, deputy director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, opposes the use of Narcan in overdose-rescue programs.

“First of all, I don’t agree with giving an opioid antidote to non-medical professionals. That’s No. 1,” she says. “I just don’t think that’s good public health policy.”

Madras says drug users aren’t likely to be competent to deal with an overdose emergency. More importantly, she says, Narcan kits may actually encourage drug abusers to keep using heroin because they know overdosing isn’t as likely.

Madras says the rescue programs might take away the drug user’s motivation to get into detoxification and drug treatment.

Hang on there…Bertha doesn’t like non-medical professionals having access to an antidote? Does she also tut-tut the availability of defibrillators in places where someone without a medical degree might use them to save a life?

And it just gets worse. She opposes saving lives because watching a friend go into delirium, spasm, turn blue, and die in front of you is a pretty good deterrent to drug use. Even better, if you turn blue and die you won’t be repeating your filthy drug habits ever again — the War on Drugs chalks up a win! We have a public health official advocating more deaths among victims of drug abuse as part of their compassionate approach to improving the health of our citizens.

Hey, here’s another suggestion: let’s stop teaching people the Heimlich maneuver. Not only does it put a medical procedure in the hands of mere non-medical professionals, watching a few fat people in your local McDonalds choke and die, turning purple, thrashing on the floor, and clawing their throats, would be an excellent salutary lesson in the dangers of gluttony and poor dietary habits.

(hat tip to Abel)

An unholy Frankensteinian fusion

We’re about to witness a monstrous event here on Scienceblogs.

Omnibrain: weird neuroscience from an inveterate smart-ass.

Retrospectacle: Parrots and hair cells with Shelley passing out the cookies.

Both are young graduate students in neuroscience, and both have decided to shut down their blogs…and

restart them as one freaky hybrid. They aren’t going away, they’re anastomosing.

There is one obstacle. They don’t know what to call this brand new twisted experiment in blogging, so they’re running a contest to name the new blog (they don’t mention it, but they’re also going to need a redesigned banner), and they’re giving away prizes for the best name: a free subscription to Seed, books, and a hodge-podge of other random science stuff.

I’m no good at the blog-naming biz — look at what I came up with for this one! — but all this talk of Shelley and Frankenstein brought to mind some obvious epithets: “abhorred monster”, “hideous progeny”, etc. I think they like their proposed merger, so those won’t do. So I searched on a full text version of Frankenstein and found the only place where the brain is mentioned in the whole book:*

To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death. I became acquainted with the science of anatomy, but this was not sufficient; I must also observe the natural decay and corruption of the human body. In my education my father had taken the greatest precautions that my mind should he impressed with no supernatural horrors. I do not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition or to have feared the apparition of a spirit. Darkness had no effect upon my fancy, and a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food for the worm. Now I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay and forced to spend days and nights in vaults and charnel-houses. My attention was fixed upon every object the most insupportable to the delicacy of the human feelings. I saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted; I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain.

Maybe I’m just morbid, but I think “Food for the worm” is an excellent name for a blog.

Somehow, I don’t think I’ll win any prizes. You people better take over.

*By the way, the next chapter contains the account of the revivification of the monster. It’s not very dramatic — no lightning bolts, no creaking chains in an old castle, no grisly stitchery of corpses. Frankenstein just does it, leaving the method unexplained.

They have a real talent there

Has anyone else noticed that you often only need to read the first sentence of anything written at Uncommon Descent to see them screw up royally? Especially, lately, if the author is Denyse O’Leary. Take this, for example.

Textbooks often don’t discuss extinction — the death of all members of a species — in any detail.

That’s news to me. I opened up my intro biology text, which is more a philosophy and history of biology book, and found 23 pages dedicated to discussing extinctions. It’s been my experience that most textbooks will mention at least the Permian and K/T extinctions; they’ll include quite a bit of material on modern extinctions; and they’ll always discuss mechanisms of extinctions. It’s as if these people have never even cracked a biology book, yet feel perfectly comfortable in declaring precisely what’s inside.

Even weirder, O’Leary goes on to quote a section from David Raup’s excellent book, Extinction (damn those evilutionists: they’re always trying to hide the facts by writing books with titles that say exactly what they’re about. Douglas Erwin also has a book titled Extinction — we’re trying so hard to avoid discussing in any detail these subjects, you see.) Raup wrote a book in which he documented the importance of chance events in evolutionary history, arguing that some major events, such as extinction in the face of overwhelming environmental trauma, are not something that any lineage can adapt itself to — some events really are just unpreventable accidents. He also carefully explained that because many major processes are driven entirely by chance, that does not mean that selection is false or doesn’t occur. Evolution has a plurality of mechanisms. O’Leary quoted a paragraph of that, and here’s her take.

In his day, Raup was taking a big risk by even suggesting that Darwinism might not be true, so he wisely merely provides facts that dispute it — and then covers his tracks with a resounding promotion of Darwinism in areas of study that he does not actually address in his book in any detail.

Wha…? That’s simply insane. David Raup was most definitely not suggesting that evolution by natural selection (which is what I presume she means by “Darwinism”) was not true, nor did any of the facts he describe in the book in any way dispute the role of selection. Raup is not in any way on O’Leary’s side. He is not a cunning stealth creationist writing a book to rebut evolution, and hiding his motives in a few false testimonials — he’s an evolutionary biologist, his book supports evolution, and the reason he’s explaining that extinctions don’t refute natural selection is because they don’t, as anyone with a sliver of reading comprehension would be able to tell you after reading his book.

Here’s the other amazing thing about the creationists’ output. The first sentence is stupid and patently wrong, but they always manage to get even stupider as you read deeper.

Congratulations, Canada!

Canadians always make such a fuss about being distinct from their southern neighbor, but you know it’s all a pretense. They want to be just like the US, they admire and respect us so much. And here’s the evidence: they’re getting rid of the position of science advisor to their government. Just like the United States of America … who needs reality-based advising on some of the most important issues of the age? Oh, sure, the Canadian scientists are unhappy about it, but the wailing and lamentations of American scientists are everywhere, too, and who cares? And it seems Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is an evangelical Christian himself … just like all of our national leaders.

Look on the bright side: it means unity. We are forming one great northern continent, unified in our ignorance, led by uninformed dumbasses. Brothers and sisters to the north, welcome!

Books that make you dumber?

I don’t think so. Virgil Griffith pulled out the top ten books read by students at various universities (it turns out Facebook collects that data for you), and then tried to correlate that with the average SAT/ACT score of each university. The result is a mess. You might be able to say that schools with low admission standards are more likely to have students who read the Bible and Fahrenheight 451, while the universities with the higher academic reputation are more likely to have students reading Lolita and Ayn Rand, but the overall distribution is more suggestive of chance — there is large, diverse pool of books read by university students, and facebook is plucking out a nearly random subset.

The display leaves a lot to be desired, too. What does the size of the lozenges mean? Standard deviation? I’d need to see something about the actual numbers for each book, too — how many universities have The Grapes of Wrath in their top ten, and how many students is the sample based on? A small college with only a few students on Facebook is a situation that is readily skewed.

I’m only mentioning this to torment you all, so you can stare at this chart trying to make sense of it as long as I did.